I thought Luther Burden III was going to be good. I expected him to replace most of the production the Tigers lost when Dominic Lovett entered the transfer portal. I must admit, I had no idea he would be this good this quickly.
Luther Burden in 2022 (Full Season):
- 46 receptions on 75 targets (61.4%)
- 398 yards, 8.7 yards per reception, 1.22 yards per route run
- 303 yards after catch, 15 missed tackles forced
- 7 drops (13.2% drop rate)
- 3 contested catches on 12 contested catch targets (25%)
- 8 receptions for 132 yards on 20 targets that traveled 10+ yards down the field
Luther Burden in 2023 (Three Games):
- 22 receptions on 28 targets (78.6%)
- 324 yards, 14.7 yards per reception, 4.15 yards per route run
- 216 yards after catch, 11 missed tackles forced
- 1 drop (4.3% drop rate)
- 3 contested catches on 5 contest catch targets (60%)
- 4 receptions for 127 yards on 9 targets that traveled 10+ yards down the field
Burden is producing like one of the best wide receivers in the country. Scratch that, actually. Burden is one of the best wide receivers in the country.
There are a number of reasons as to why we’ve seen Burden take such a massive step forward in his second year on campus. First of all, he’s simply a better player. He’s running better routes, he’s getting better releases, and he’s tracking the ball in the air much better on deep balls. Those are all skills that we have to give him credit for developing. His ability to play with physicality and make defenders miss in space was never in question. His ability to do the “wide receiver-y” stuff? That was the issue a year ago. It’s no longer an issue.
But his ability is not the only factor that’s changed since this time last year. He’s also being used differently. Lovett’s departure opened up the slot for Burden, which allowed for more free releases off the line of scrimmage. He also wins across the middle and up the seam at a high level, two areas that become easier to exploit out of the slot. The offense simply suits him in a way it didn’t last season.
Can I interest you in a two minute highlight reel of Luther Burden III being one of the most dominant receivers in the country through the first three weeks of the season? Is that something you would enjoy? #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/ycDgzuOF2r— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) September 19, 2023
The result is a wide receiver who looks like some combination of Jeremy Maclin and Deebo Samuel.
I’ve been making the Maclin comparison for years. I’m not alone in that regard, but this comes from my recruiting reset on Burden in October of 2021:
Someone asked me to compare Burden to Dorial Green-Beckham. It’s a difficult comparison to make. They’re not similar in really any way other than both play wide receiver. DGB was a 6-foot-6, 220 pound freak of an athlete who outran everyone on the field and high-pointed the ball with the best of them. He was an athlete playing wide receiver. Burden is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and he wins at... well, everything. He’s strong, he’s fast, he runs crisp routes, he makes defenders miss in space. He can literally do a little bit of everything.
If you’re looking for a better comparison for Burden, it’s probably Jeremy Maclin. Much like Luther, Maclin won in every way possible in high school. He wasn’t rated as highly as Burden, but a quick view of his high school highlights will show that might have been an oversight by the recruiting services.
The Samuel comparison is one I think also makes some sense. It’s one Eli Drinkwitz made during his appearance on Sirius XM earlier this week.
Fresh off an upset win over No. 15 Kansas State, @MizzouFootball HC Eli Drinkwitz joined @BarrettSallee & @TomLuginbill to talk about star WR Luther Burden III's 114-yard, 2-TD performance and what he brings to the table. pic.twitter.com/N3VbEA180M— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) September 18, 2023
Whoever you think Burden best compares to, he’s a stud. The highlights pop off the screen, but it’s his consistency that’s stood out to me. He’s not a one-trick pony any longer. He’s winning across the middle, he’s making plays in space on screens and jet sweeps. He’s winning on deep shots.
He’s doing a little bit of everything, and the production is simply off the charts. Among the 121 power five pass catchers with at least 15 targets on the season, Luther Burden ranks:
- T12th in targets
- T7th in receptions
- 9th in receiving yards
- 5th in yards after catch
- 2nd in yards per route run
- T6th in touchdowns
- 2nd in PFF Receiving Grade
Trying to put together “on-pace” stats after just three games can be a tricky thing. Alright, the caveat is out of the way. Burden is currently on pace for 1,308 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. The only SEC wide receivers to finish with at least 1,300 receiving yards and 10+ touchdowns in a single season since 2010 are Jameson Williams (2021), Devonta Smith (2020), Ja’Marr Chase (2019), Justin Jefferson (2019), Jerry Jeudy (2018), Amari Cooper (2014) and Mike Evans (2013). The only players from that group to do so as a true sophomore were Chase and Jeudy. We’re talking a who’s who of SEC receivers.
That’s the company Burden is keeping. He arrived on campus as one of the most hyped recruits in the history of the program. His current performance is more than matching that hype.
Luther Burden III is him, and he’s putting on a show.